Kirk Hinirch is a game time decision but looks unlikely to play. Luol Deng and Taj Gibson were both home sick, and while they'll likely play, who knows if their condition will allow them to play at their peak.
If the Bulls drop tonight's game and have to play a game seven in Brooklyn, they'll be in serious danger of adding on to their list of dubious playoff accomplishments. They're one of five teams to lose in the first round as the one seed, and one of a fairly small group to lose any round after being up 2-0. They can add lost a series after having a 3-1 lead to their list of epic playoff fails this series if they're not careful.
I'd love to say Tom Thibodeau won't let them lose three in a row, but much like both of those other series losses, if it happens this time, the injuries will be the primary reason why. The Bulls were missing Curry/Deng that series against Washington and were fortunate to have won the first two. We all know why they lost as the one seed last year, and you get the feeling that by the end of this series the Bulls will have to go 4 on 5 at some point because the roster's getting so thin.
Rebound the basketball
There Bulls may be hurt, they me be banged up, but they need to hit the glass hard. They lost game five on the offensive glass before dropping the rope at the end. The Nets may have more talent than Chicago offensively, but they're softer and not as tough on the glass.
Chicago needs to make this game about dominating the glass on both ends. Guys like Jimmy butler and Luol Deng need to crash the glass hard. Taj Gibson needs to have a big rebounding night, and though he's playing on one leg, and has given us his everything, we need Joakim Noah to give us more. We need Joakim Noah to play like Joakim Noah today.
Bring back the defense
Missing Kirk Hinrich is a blow to the defense, but the Bulls gave up 132 points in a game four triple overtime battle with him in there. It's not just about Hinrich, in fact, it's probably not even mostly about Hinrich.
The Bulls need to bring a game two/three style defensive intensity to this game. They need to stop giving Brooklyn the fast break opportunities, stop letting them get the dunks and layups, and force them into the contested jumpers that they're dying to fall in love with anyway.
The Nets offense has been rolling in three of the five games. The Bulls were only able to win one of those games. The two games that were defensive struggles Chicago won. The Bulls need to turn this game into one of those defensive struggle games.
Who steps up on offense?
Nate Robinson's giving you two amazing games in a row and while we'll certainly need him, and Chicago will be holding its breath to see if he can deliver for a third. Robinson isn't consistently this good. If he was, he wouldn't have signed on a non guaranteed contract to start the season. That said, if he can stay in the zone for one more night, the Bulls will always have a chance.
What Chicago really need is Luol Deng to pull his head out of his ass this series. He's 1/18 from beyond the three point line and has a TS% of 39% for the series. He's, theoretically, one of the Bulls best offensive players, but he's mostly been a train wreck on offense so far.
Jimmy Butler's been criticized for not looking ready offensively, but he's averaging 11.7 points per 36 minutes on 63.5 TS% relative to Deng's 11.1 on 39%. In other words, Jimmy's giving you more points on about half the shots.
Carlos Boozer has been effective in the series, but he hasn't look as effective with Nate Robinson running the show. That's been true all year, and the Bulls will have to find a balance of Robinson being awesome and Robinson feeding Boozer. Robinson is a better creator than Hinrich, but he's not a better facilitator. For guys like Butler who will do well with open space created that's fine. For guys like Boozer that really just need to get the ball in their comfort zone it's less effective.
The Bulls need to throw everything they have against Brooklyn in this game. You do not wan this series to go to game 7. You do not want to have to try and win again on the road. Chicago needs to come out with true intensity, take care of the little things, and play Bulls basketball.
If the Nets win anyway, then so be it, but make them beat you at your game not theirs.